Week Commencing 27th September 2021

Week Commencing 27th September 2021

Good morning everyone

Well it has arrived the close of the 2021 season on the Spey.

Another eventful year with good/bad memories and the normal and not so normal highs and lows. As we look forward to the 2022 season with baited breath, the ghillies can now earn a well deserved rest before the program of winter maintenance starts.

I start this report with a goodbye to one of the longest serving and amiable people of the river. After an amazing 41 year stint as a Head ghillie/ghillie, Ian Tennant has retired from Gordon Castle and Brae Water beats.

Ian will be sorely missed on the Spey, particularly his contagious enthusiasm and endless energy for catching salmon.
His wealth of knowledge will also be missed, as those who know, or who have fished with him would also agree that what he’s forgotten over the last 40+ years is more than most will ever know.

Ian served his time as a boat builder in Buckie before becoming a ghillie for Gordon castle when he was 21 years old. He often told stories of catching fish off the high bank of the Birks and selling them to passing tourist’s. He earned more money in a couple of hours fishing than a full weeks wage at the slip!. Ian has fished the Spey around Fochabers since he was just a wee loon (expertly guided by his father, another legendary ghillie of the Spey).

Also I’d like to add that Ian has decided to embark on a pretty impressive mission throughout his retirement where he is going to fish every salmon river in mainland Scotland. He calls it “River Bagging”! He is also going to try raise money for charity while he does it. So I ask on his behalf if anyone can help with this mission I’m positive Ian would be grateful.

On behalf of all the team at Gordon Castle, the Fishery Board, anglers and the remaining ghillies on the Spey we’d like to with Ian all the best and to many happy years of retirement.

The above  tribute and following pictures courtesy of David Buley, Gordon Castle

A fresh fish for the ghillie


Ian with a pristine bar of silver


Ian on a lovely sunny day on Speyside

Well going into the last week, heavy rain was forecast and it did not disappoint, with the river rising and becoming very dirty on Monday but with Tuesday being dry it fell away and cleared reasonably quickly. Along with a drop in temperature there was a air of optimism on Speyside that the last couple of days could be a tail end bonanza. However reality painted a very different picture as the following beat reports show.

David Buley at Gordon Castle and Brae Water reports that they lost 2 days as a result of the rain and dirty river but finished with 3 fish for the last 2 days.

Orton had a better week than the last few with a handful of fish to 19lbs, according to Head Ghillie Andy Gunn.

Mark Melville at Delfur  has already started on the end of season jobs by taking the boats in for the winter. He reports a dozen fish for the 4 days, with all fish taken in last two days, these included fish of 16 and 17lb.

Rory Mountain with a baby croc from Sourden


Rory again with Haddie and Hector, aka the ghillies

Next upstream, Rothes finished with 7 fish reports Robbie Stronach, with one good “croc” of 26lb landed by lucky angler Kevin Clayton.

Kevin Clayton with his 26lb croc from Creeky


Another picture of the big boy

Arndilly Head ghillie Euan Reid advises that they had a disappointing final 4 days given what was on Wednesday and Thursday a beautiful water for Arndilly. We had a wee flourish on the last day with 4 landed and a few others lost but that was our lot for the week.

Easter Elchies Head Ghillie, Orn Sigurhansson reports that George Thomson’s party had some good sport in particular sea trout, landing 6 sea trout in the dropping water on Tuesday. We were pleased to host the RSAA and Speyside HS in conjunction with Cadence Rods on Upper Arndilly on Wednesday and Thursday and will be looking to continuing that partnership in 2022. Rod of the week on Easter Elchies was Les Tyson, landing 7 salmon to his own rod on the final day. All the fish were caught on a size 6 Dinnet Shrimp, using a floating line with 5” per second tip.

The pre fish version


Les Tyson’s fly after 7 fish

A full report of the RSAA 2 day event is at the end of the report.

Kinermony ended their season with two grilse, one salmon and a seatrout, all coloured according to Ghillie David Brand

Malcolm Newbould advises that Wester Elchies finished with one fish in the last week.

Mike Murdoch at Laggan confirm that they has 3 fish in the last 2 days but not the hoped for bonanza after the rain.

Knockando Home Beat finished their season with 2 grilse advises Archie Baillie who hopes that 2022 will be a better year.

The “eternal optimist” at Lower Pitchroy who told me last Sunday that his score would be zero, needs to eat his tweeds. Andrew Hall confirms that the beat finished with 8 salmon and a seatrout for the last week, with 5 of the 8 fish landed on the last day. Salt and pepper for your tweeds Mr Hall??????

As mentioned in the Easter Elchies report the River Spey Anglers Association held a 2 day Rural Skills and Fishing workshop for 8 pupils from Speyside HS who are undertaking their John Muir Trust Award. A varied program for the two days saw the pupils fishing, understanding the role of the Biologist and Head Water Bailiff, assisting with the analysis of some electro fishing in the Fiddich, learning about knots and tackle setup and get a flytying demonstration.

The above event could only take place due to the generosity of the beat owners at Easter Elchies, the use of rods from Cadence Rods, Ian Gordon (taking time away from his guests to give a demonstration on the first morning) and the raft of volunteers who gave up their time to assist the association.

Some of the pupils really handled a double-handled rod well and were able to perform a double spey on the second day due to the downstream but variable wind.

Unfortunately the pupils did not catch any fish but saw plenty but this is the pattern that seemed to be evident through the catchment on the last week.

I was lucky however to land a nice hen fish after the pupils had returned home on Wednesday afternoon.

Here are some pictures from the two days.

The results of the electro-fishing before being analysed


The participants and the coaches


The author with his 14lb (est) hen from the tail of Heathery Isle


The author demonstrating Flytying with one of the groups of pupils


Some of the parr and fry being anesthetized before being measured and scale samples taken

One of the groups listening to the role of the Board Biologist and the Head Water Bailiff (Apologies to Richard for him being half in shot)


one participant putting a bend in the rod


No shortage of flies for the anglers to chose from – courtesy of Sandy Howie


Ian Gordon giving the pupils a talk about rods and casting on the first morning.


going to sleep


Day one first session in the river


Coach and angler


Board Biologist, Brian Shaw explaining to a group the equipment used when electro-fishing

Well that draws the season to a close and as said above it has been eventful and we can now start planning for 2022.

On a seperate note I would like to say thank you to the ghillies, the Spey Fishery Board and its staff and the owners for their assistance in providing me with the weekly “craic” to prepare these reports. I have enjoyed my stint in helping out to do these and hope to have given you, the readers a bit of light relief on a Sunday night.

I hope to be back speaking to you next season.

With many grateful thanks


There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Colin G,F, Smith at 10:30 am

    excellent report many thanks look forward to 2022

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